ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Greg Holland made his first appearance in the Cardinal club house Monday, joining the team after being called up from Single-A Palm Beach.
The 32-year-old closer had been ramping up in Florida after missing spring training, a product of this year's glacial free agent market. After the Cardinals signed him for a one-year, $14 million deal at the opening of the season, he transitioned from private workouts to team activities.
Monday he was officially added to the 25-man roster and arrived ready for work.
"At this point it’s kind of like opening day for me. I’m trying to stay even keeled, but once I get out there the first time and get in the game, it’s going to be pretty normal," he said.
Holland, a 3-time all-star, saved 41 games last year. He joins a bullpen that has had mixed results in the early going this season, and should be served well by a ninth-inning anchor.
"That’s every team’s hope is to understand what your last inning looks like and then take it from there," manager Mike Matheny said. "You still have innings that need to be accounted for, there’s just one less inning."
Though some relievers like Jordan Hicks and Bud Norris have looked strong in their early chances, Dominic Leone has given up three home runs, leading to two losses. Matt Bowman, who leads the team in appearances, has also had a rocky start to his campaign.
The Cardinals expressed comfort leaving spring training without a true closer, and anticipated they may mix and match in the late innings as the year went on. As March passed and Holland remained unsigned, the front office quickly realized they could end the uncertainty a lot sooner.
"I think the beginning of free agency, I never would have guessed we’d sign him for one year," general manager Mike Girsch said. "Adding a true closer was always something that was a nice cherry on top kind of thing. If we can do it for one year, it made a lot of sense for us."
Players always want longer-term security and teams like to control risk, but the lethargic market has forced a sense of urgency for free agents. Holland will make $14 million, and the sooner he can get back to the mound to prove he's worth a multi-year deal, the better for him.
"It took a lot longer than anticipated," he said. "But at the end of the day, that’s all you can really ask for as a player is to be on this caliber of a team and an organization that is going to do everything they can to get to the World Series. Hopefully I can facilitate that."
Both Holland and Matheny would prefer to get him into action Monday if the game allows, though it was clear the manager views Holland as the ninth inning guy, so a save opportunity would need to present itself for him to appear.
Hicks, who is 21 years old and jumped four levels to make the team this season, could handle high leverage situations outside of the ninth or slide into a steady setup role. The other slots will fall into place as the season rolls on.
Holland returns to Busch happy to be wearing the home uniform, as his previous five appearances in St. Louis have seen only two saves and a 4.15 ERA.
"I’ve actually been on the wrong end of a few here when I was playing for Kansas City. But it’s a great baseball town and I enjoy coming here," he said. "As a player, I didn’t always what I was coming up against, but now I’m on the other side of that and I think the fan base here is one that’s going to help the players perform."
Mike Mayers was optioned to Triple-A Memphis to clear a slot for Holland on the 25-man roster.